Does a game have to be big to have value? Does it need eleventy billion components to give you board gaming bang for your buck? As I have grown into my cardboard collection, I am constantly reminded that some of my smallest games are the most valuable to me.
Games I value are those I play over and over and over again. Games that can be played on a small surface area (have you tried sharing a table with a 7-year-old?), in a short time, by me alone or with others (if I share!) are my most prized. And micro games like Squire for Hire hit all of those tick boxes.
I have written a separate How to Play blog which you can find here, so this feature will focus on why I play it and why I think you might like it too!
Squire for Hire is a microgame. 18 cards wrapped in a tiny tuck box, the inside of which has the rules printed upon. So there’s no need or even room for an insert! But don’t let that fool you into thinking they’ve squeezed out the fun. For these Squires are packing some cool crunch in their backpacks, and they know it!
The base game (core set 1) includes 4 unique squires with asymmetrical powers. As a loyal and strong Squire, your objective is a simple one. You must fill the bag you are carrying with all the loot your hero is accumulating when they complete quests and defeat baddies!
Which Squire you play determines how valuable certain items can become. Everything that isn’t “junk” has a baseline value of 1 point when it is visible in your bag at end game. But, if you can place cards in such a way that trigger’s your special bonus power, then those items increase in value. Each one also manipulates the negative scoring of visible junk items which is super handy!
Patching For Points
The gameplay is simple. Every turn you decide if your hero can or wants to complete a Story (Quest/Encounter/Dungeon) based on the items you have in your bag. You don’t technically need to do anything – this isn’t a DnD adventure. You just need the required size of items already in your bag, or be prepared to cover the specified item up with the card you pick from the two Loot cards available. If your hero doesn’t or can’t complete the Story, the card gets flipped over to the loot side and you place it on one of the piles either side of the deck.
Placement is by way of patching; the new card must completely cover an item in your bag. It can cover as many things as you like (including junk), so long as it covers the item specified on the Story card (if you are “using” an item to take the card).
When the deck runs out, you can shuffle the cards in the loot piles and go through those once more. In solo mode, you only get to go through the deck once. Then it’s time to score. Whoever has the most points is the superior Squire! And in solo mode, you’ll be hired if you reach a minimum of 25 points!
There are so many things I love in this little game. It’s portable – I defy you to find a pocket in which it will not fit! It has multi-use cards. It can be played solo. It has cracking crunchy, patchy placement play. It’s budget-friendly. It can be played in under 20 minutes. And it’s infinitely replayable!
What it isn’t is flash. Or complicated. Or component-heavy. Or epically lengthy. But as I have expanded my gaming experience, I don’t value those things. This is a quick-to-the-table-or-anywhere type game that is simple to learn but very tricky to master! The artwork is cute and cartoony which I like – anthropomorphised woodland animals are always a hit for me! I would say the micro size does mean the rules have been made as brief as possible. But it can lead to some questions/scenarios being unclear (but that’s where BGG forums come in!).
Having to match over valuables based on the size of items, or covering items trying to pair up adjacent items makes this a game of trade-offs. You’ll invariably be giving something potentially point scoring each turn. So can you make the sacrifice worth it? Keeping track of junk sounds easy. But the composition of each card is peppered with bits and bobs your Squire power might not be able to modify. Yes there is an element of luck – the random order in which the cards come off the deck will determine which items and junk will feature next.
But having different Squires with unique bonuses is great and is a way to mitigate the draw effect. I have played this a bunch of times now and I seem to squeak a win with some and lose hard with others. Their individual combinations of abilities is neat – Tenderfoot has a good adjacency bonus, but getting the group junk power to trigger is super hard. It often leads me to accumulating more random rubbish than valuables!
I won’t lie. My favourite way to play Squire for Hire is solo. But it's also good fun playing against another Squire! I think I was only 3 or 4 games in when I liked it so much that I bought the Mystic Runes expansion (the extra Squire pack is also on my Christmas wish list!). And whilst I seem to be truly terrible at being hired, I’ll never stop lugging my hero’s’ bag of loot around in the hope of being hired.